Autograph manuscript 1818–1820
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1900
Byron's manuscript of Don Juan reveals a fluid hand, the author often working with minimal revision to achieve a swift, conversational pace despite the complexity of his chosen rhyme scheme, ottava rima. Shortly after composing the first canto, one page of which is shown here, Byron added several dozen stanzas to the poem. He then recopied some of the new stanzas crosswise, in a neat and regular hand, directly over the first draft. "The bore of copying it out is intolerable," he told a friend after completing the first canto, "and if I had an amanuensis he would be of no use, as my writing is so difficult to decipher."